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Launch Of Folate Awareness Day At New World

Launch Of Folate Awareness Day At Thorndon New World


Health Minister Annette King says excellent progress is being made in reducing the number of babies born in New Zealand with spina bifida, but a simple change in diet could make even more difference.

Folate, the natural form of a B vitamin, is known to reduce the risks of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, but only when consumed in adequate quantities. Fortifying food with folate, and encouraging people – especially women planning to get pregnant – to eat these particular foods is a key to reducing the incidence of these defects.

Mrs King today launched New Zealand CCS Folate Awareness Day at Thorndon New World supermarket, where she went on a shopping expedition for folate-rich foods like leafy green vegetables, fruit, eggs, orange juice, legumes, grains and some breads and breakfast cereals.

She said it was encouraging to see that the number of babies being born in New Zealand with spina bifida continued to decrease. Of all the live births last year, 17 babies were born with this condition. "While this is still too many, it is an improvement on previous years."

Dietary intakes of folate in New Zealand remain lower than recommended, especially for women. Since 1993, all women considering pregnancy have been advised to take folic acid supplements for four weeks prior to and 12 weeks after conception, but such advice is limited by the fact that 50 percent of pregnancies in New Zealand are unplanned.

"Events like Folate Awareness Day are important to raise the profile of the benefits of folate, and emphasise the advantages of consuming foods fortified with folic acid."

Mrs King said a campaign to increase the amount of folic acid in foods such as bread had received support from all the major political parties in New Zealand. The logistics of fortifying flour would be considered by the Association of Bakers in November.

Mrs King has also had initial discussions with Australian Health Minister Dr Michael Wooldridge, who is interested in the New Zealand approach, and it may be possible in the future that the Australia New Zealand Food Authority develops a standard for folate enrichment.

Ends

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